VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada warned on Wednesday that any political boycott of Beijing Olympic Games over unrest in Tibet would only end up hurting the athletes.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee is monitoring the growing political controversy surrounding the upcoming Summer Games in China, but has not felt any direct impact on its operations or finances yet, officials said.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said there have been no government calls for a boycott of the Beijing Games, but at least one rights group has suggested the more limited protest of boycotting the opening ceremonies.
“Our view is that boycotting the Games serves little or no purpose except to penalize athletes who really serve as the best role models there are,” VANOC Chief Executive John Furlong told reporters following a meeting of the group’s board.
“It’s the one good thing that sport gets to do... there are no borders for athletes,” Furlong said in a news conference that was dominated by questions about Beijing rather than Vancouver.
Canada’s Olympic Committee is also opposed to any boycott-type protest against China.
The 2010 Games on Canada’s Pacific Coast have so far avoided getting linked to any major political controversies, aside from local disputes over issues such as a shortage of affordable housing in Vancouver.
VANOC said it has not lost any sponsors worried about being linked to the Olympics because of the controversy over the Beijing Games.
Canada was among the Western countries that refused to compete in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union and its eastern bloc allies retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, citing security concerns.
Canadian silver medalist Charmaine Crooks, a member of VANOC’s board, said she was among the athletes hurt by the 1980s boycotts. “I know athletes who are still recovering from 1980,” she said.
Canada hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, an event that avoided any major international political controversies.
(Reporting by Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson)
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